Michelob Ultra's NYC Marathon Work Supports And Inspires Beer-Loving Runners En Route

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On November 4th 2018 more than 50,000 runners set off from the Verrazano Bridge and ran through all five boroughs to the Central Park finish of the 2018 TVC New York Marathon and many of them, specifically the beer drinkers, were supported along the way by Michelob Ultra.

The beer brand’s activation programme included supportive billboards along the route pre- and post-race parties, a media integration with Jimmy Kimmel Live and a brand backed training and support programme for ‘Team Ultra’.


The lead influencer activation strand saw the low cal beer brand choose 95 runners (one for each calorie in a can of Michelob Ultra) who all love beer to run: they were selected for their paired passionate for running and for beer and were all people seeking to balance fitness and fun in everything they do.

Team members – who were not just offered branding and beer, but also serious, professional athlete training support (including advice from 2017 winner Shalane Flanagan that included in-person tips, video training sessions and Instagram Stories work) – were encouraged to post about their training, preparation and race experiences on their social media channels.





Other initiatives supporting Team Ultra ranged from a pre-race surprise from Chris Pratt,


to a wide range of race day festivities.

 The OOH phase saw a set of tongue-in-cheek posters positioned at various points along the course: primarily carrying messages about how close the runners were to a refreshing, cold beer (at the finish line) to provide inspiration and an extra boost through the 26.2 mile course.



Further strategically sited billboards around the city – including beside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (where runners picked up race bibs ahead of the marathon) – also promoted the beer.


“We are trying to take a different and more holistic approach to our sponsorship activations. In the past, we might have just sponsored by putting our logos up and trying to sample some beer,” commented Michelob Ultra marketing VP Azania Andrews.

 “Our brand is all about balance and helping people understand that a way to have balance is to live fit and live fun and to be active in their life, but also to have time to spend with their friends and family, and enjoy great beer. We get to learn a lot about what balance means to these runners and what it looks like, and use that information to inform our communications,” Andrews added.

 “We have 100 people who are now out posting on their social media and talking to their friends and family for the past six months about this experience, so it’s just this incredible expression of word of mouth marketing.”


This work is the fruition of the brand’s NYC marathon activation programme which has supported runners through their training and build up to the race and which was first launched in 2017. It brings to life Michelob Ultra’s commitment to and investment in engaging and supporting the running community. Obviously running, or serious sport of pretty much any kind, and beer do not immediately seem like an obvious fit – but Michelob Ultra is proving the obvious wrong. As running grows globally, the beer brand continues to increase its investment and its commitment to runners and to races. This approach sits at the heart of Michelob Ultra’s strategy to position itself as ‘a beer for active people who still want to enjoy drinks with friends after work or on the weekends’.


The brand plans to continue to market in and around the running space in inventive and supportive ways.

 “There are more than 100 million people in America who identify as runners. Really you just need a pair of shoes and some people don’t even use that depending on where you are in the country,” added Andrews.

 “We like that it is something that is accessible by a broad group of people, but it also requires an intention. It’s not so much about skill (outside of elite runners) but for anybody, it’s just the focus and intention and again a great expression of balance to create the time to make the space to run.”


Michelob Ultra







TCS New York City Marathon Web:








This case study originally appeared on Activative: which offers clients creative and strategic intelligence to fuel game-changing sports and sponsorship marketing. www.activative.co.uk

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